Question about the Ayoob Razorback


Gold Member
Oct 14, 1998
Is it a good utility cutter or an overglorified steak knife w/ sheath?

The blade has a too thick/width ratio for effective cutting. It would make a great stabber or neck knife and that is about it IMHO.

Best Regards,
Mike Turber
BladeForums Site Owner and Administrator
Do it! Do it right! Do it right NOW!

To me, the Ayoob knife just kinda comes across Goofy...

I dont know why - cant put my finger on it - but that knife's lines are just wrong.

I am glade I am not the only one who doesnt like this knife!

I mean, if I went around saying I was an Emperor because some
moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, people would put me away!

Built more for combat than utility. Seems like a good penetrator, but not much after that.
the razorback does not make a very good general purpose cutter. the spine is very thick and so is the edge. it is not even a full tang knife. i'm not sure what difference this makes int he razorback, but it does keep me from using it as hard as i want to.

on the plus side - the sheath is excellent. it works fine (for me) in IWB or neck carry. it work ok as a slip sheath as well, but part of the handle will stick out of my pocket. it has an adequate guard/finger cutout, to prevent hand slippage up the blade. it feels fine in the reverse grip as well.

i liked the knife when i first got it, but in a knife this size, i would expect more cutting ability. i would love to see a drop point, flat grind or even hollow grind version of this knife. imo, there are not enough knives out there that have a decent blade length (3 1/2"+) and that can be carried in many different ways, including neck carry. most of the neck knives are around 3" or less blade length. the blade on the razorback is over 3 1/2", and that is another plus for this knife.

What do you expect when you get a knife designed by a gun writer? The knife is a tanto double ground ice pick. He wanted penitration and was also afraid that a wide blade would get stuck in the ribs or locked in the wound by muscle tetnis. That was the story I was told. It is an OK hideout knife.



"Cet animal est tres mechant;quand on l'attaque il se defend."("This animal is very mischievous: when it is attacked it defends itself")
The Razorback violates knife-carrying conventional wisdom - "Never tell a cop you were carrying that knife 'for protection'"

I've read some of Massad Ayoob's writing, where he discusses surviving both the fight and the legal system, and he makes a lot of sense. I wonder what he would have to say about a civilian carrying, an any but the most self-defense friendly jurisdictions, a hideout knife that is designed only as a stabbing weapon (too thick in the cross section to work as a cutting tool or even a good slashing weapon), that has the words, "Lethal force institute" etched onto the blade!

I'm not a martial artist, but from what I've seen from martial artists in these knife forums, I understand that defensive knife combatives concentrate on slashing an attacker's extremities, to "defang the snake." The Razorback looks to me like something an assassin would use, with the grooves in the blade to hold the poison.

I can explain a Boker-Nealy Specialist or a CRKT Stiff Kiss as a steak knife, etcetera. I would have trouble explaining the Razoraback. Show me the same profile in thinner stock, without the grooves that make it hard to clean, and with a lightweight synthetic handle, and I might want to carry and use it.

Tanto's aren't really good thrusters. We'll ignore the fact that these angular monstrosities passed off as tantos aren't anything like the real ones.

Basicaly, tanto points got the undeserved reputation as good thrusters based solely on the fact that the grind leaves a lot of steel at the tip, which makes it strong. NOTE: the tanto isn't the only style of point you can do this with; see Chris Reeve Project 1 and 2.

Okay, so what's wrong with the tanto as a thruster? Well, you've all heard about the point being in line with the handle, well that's true, but not the whole story. You also need a point, and I'm talking about the pointy tip, as close to the center as possible. In a tanto, the point is on the spine, which means it slips instead of digging in when it meets resistance. This can be somewhat compensated for by thrusting with the knife upside down.

Okay, so we'll put a swedge on it, that'll move the point closer to the center. Sure, that works, but the angle of climb is still pretty steep. It'll take some exertion to drive the point home. By the way, you don't have a tanto anymore.

Okay, so we'll reduce the angle of climb on the point. Yup, that works, but now you have a mongrel.

Okay, so we'll give it some belly, round out those stupid hard angles. You know what you have now? A clip point!

Tanto points are simply a fad. If you like the looks of them, more power to you, but there is nothing "special" about them. In the West, where we've used tanto style points for centuries, they were put on utility blades.

That said, NO WAY I'd pay that much money for that thing. I'd rather get a brace of Cold Steel tantos. There is nothing special about the Razorback to reccomend it as a great knife, or worthy of it's price tag. If you like the looks, get one by all means, you can make it work within it's parameters.

If I was going to have any of these "masters of defense" make me a fixed blade, it'd be James Keating. Mossad Ayoob? That cop/gun guy? What? Huh? Does he even know what knives are?
As always, your point is in-your-face but IMO well thought-out. I agree with you in nearly every detail, except one that I am loathe to point out: this "fad" has been with us almost two decades now. The American tanto seems to be here to stay. I don't like 'em because there is no inherent correlation between keeping a strong point and losing the most valuable part of the knife - the curved belly. But some folks dig these things and they still seem to hold a strange mystique for kids, ninja movie fans, and apparently gun writers. Go figure.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
Hey, Corduroy!;

Yeah, they have been around a long time, and likely will be around for some time to come. As a point, I suppose they have their place, moreso the "real" tanto points, but I guess even these angular ones have their uses. Please, for the love of all that's good and patriotic in this country, DON'T CALL IT AN AMERICAN TANTO!

What I mean by "fad" is that there's this false idea, that is not backed up by practical experiment, that says that the tanto point is good for more than it is.

Kinda like the "wondersteel of the month". The steels may be good, but they are hyped a bit out of proportion.

[This message has been edited by Snickersnee (edited 04 June 1999).]
I use "American tanto" to distinguish the more common shape - which has a sharply differentiated, perfectly straight secondary edge with a distinct corner between it and the first edge, and often (stupidly) with the secondary edge ground in the same manner as the primary edge - from what I understand is the more traditional shape - which has a slightly curved secondary edge with a rounded transition from the primary edge and a much more robust grind on the secondary edge than on the primary edge.

Whew, I said a mouthful. In short, "American tanto" in this sense means "bastardized style that looks vaguely like a tanto but is altered in ways that show no understanding of the reasoning behind the original design."


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
I carry a "tanto" style knife quite often because it is the only style/grind that is not specifically banned in my state. Bowies,Daggers,Arkansas toothpicks are verboten. Needless to say that is because they strike fear in the hearts of men.

This law dates back to the 1800s when two of our esteemed polititians in the state senate debated thier differences with "bowie Knives"
on the floor of the senate chambers. There was a immediate writing,nomination and passing of this law.

I find that the point is not that critical on the "American Tanto" it comes to a fine point and the front edge cuts itself through quite well thank you.After all I am not trying to defeat medival armor.



"Cet animal est tres mechant;quand on l'attaque il se defend."("This animal is very mischievous: when it is attacked it defends itself")
Corduroy, I know why you were calling it an American tanto, I was only half serious(that was my first smile, actualy). Still, I don't want the name of Liberty connected with that thing...


Yeah, with enough force applied, you can drive near any point through near any softer material. Even a butter knife. My point is that the tanto, American or otherwise, is not optimaly suited for this use. It's not just a matter of a fine point, it's got to do with where the point is as well. As far as the secondary edge cutting itself through, any knife with an edge will do this.

Rarely does one have occasion to stab anything for utility purposes. If you're stabbing especialy with a "master of defense", you're probably defending yourself. In which case in is perfectly reasonable to want a knife that is actualy designed to have good penetrating charachteristics. Medieval armor? How about ballistic armor? That stuff is out there, some badguys do wear it. If you think that a tanto point is suited for anti-kevlar duty as some claim, go get a surplus flak jack. They are aproximately level II, and cost all of two hundred dollars. If you can't afford this, I can save you the money by saying that I've already run the experiment. This is not the tanto's, either Japanese or American, strong point.

That said, I can certainly agree with the wisdom of avoiding point styles that are typicaly associated with outlawed knives. While my state(Fl.) isn't too hung up on this, I know in some places it's better to be safe than sorry.
Briefly, Mr. Ayoob has opened the eyes of many on both the martial arts and gun sides where others would leave a division. I won't lie, I like David E. Steele better as a writer. Steele has taken more blade training (Presas Arnis/Inosanto & Lacoste Escrima/Western Fencing/Silat/Tantojutsu w/ Don Angier). Ayoob trained mostly in kung fu and has designed knives waaaaay back.

Concerning the Razorback it is one of many FBs I'm considering in the $100 & below price range. Personally, if I can't use the knife for utility, I won't bother buying it.

I haven't run any stabbing or slashing experiments myself, but I think I've figured out what that angular point is really for, when it isn't way out at the end of a sword.

It's the "American tanto" because it's perfect for eating the great American dinner - steak, preferably pink or red in the middle!

It is a pleasure to eat steak and other food that you have cut with a good sharp knife, as opposed to torn apart with a dull one. The trouble is that steak knives frequently encounter china plates. China plates are harder than steel, and that rapidly dulls the edge.

What to do?

Get an "Ameri-tanto"!

Only that little secondary point will hit the plate, leaving the rest of the edge sharp!


But the Razorback is way too thick.

Hmmm, kinda makes sense. And with enough knife-plate rendevous and subsequent resharpenings, your "tanto of the west" will take on a shape that's actually good for something... though you'll have to retire it from porterhouse duty


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
Some interesting Ayoob facts: He's a well trained in knife usage from various instructors including: Paul Vanak, Remy Presas, Graciella Casillas, Hank Reinhardt, etc...Seems there is a definite Filipino influence, which leads to more of a slashing technique...why the Razorback was designed the way it was is a mystery unless you buy the Masters of Defense video)...I did read somewhere that he tested the prototype Razorbacks on dead sheep carcasses....

For what it's worth, my personal impression of the Razorback was mixed.

It's a specialized knife designed for a specific type of strategy. Plainly put, it's optimized for someone to stab, twist, and withdraw, producing what Ayoob describes as a wound similar to a shotgun blast.

First, a knife like this assumes the following: A good defense is a good offense. The best way to stop your attacker is to do as much damage as possible with the least amount of effort. Whether you agree with this or not is up to you.

Assuming, however, that you accept this strategy, when you work with small blades, stabbing is the name of the game. And if you want to maximize the stab, you'll have to twist the blade.

When you twist the blade, several things can happen. Your blade can get jammed against bone. Your blade might not even turn at all if it's too broad. Hence the reason why the the blade is so thin in terms of width.

But because it is so thin, the blade might break too easily under pressure. To compensate, he made the blade bigger in terms of thickness.

Following conventional wisdom, a tanto tip and blood grooves were added to help optimize the stab. I can see why he chose the tanto tip. It's a compromise between tip strength and piercing abilities. And with a knife specialized for stabbing, this becomes an especially important issue. A thicker blade may be harder to stab, but the razorback is also a slender blade. I'm sure this is a controversial point, but I assume that it doesn't have any problems stabbing. At least it didn't seem like it to me.

I suppose for the sake of balance, the handle had to be roughly as slender as the blade itself. With a slender handle, I suppose the best way to get good indexing would be the saber grip. To be fair, the Razorback does have good retention for such a small handle. This ability is further enhanced when they added grooves.

My concern with a blade like this, however, is in the handle itself. See, the main strength of the strategy hinges on the ability to twist your knife. The slender handle is made of slippery metal. I question just how well a blade like that can twist when the hand is covered with sweat and maybe blood? Instead, I would have suggested to drastically bend the handle down after the second finger groove. To do so will give your last two fingers sort of a turning handle. The piercing would not be affected as the first finger against the lower guard does most of the work. In fact, if anything, this modification might actually enhance the knife's stabbing ability. While we're at it, they should probably increase the lower guard.

Another problem I have with the handle design is that it is so doggedly dependant on the saber grip to stay in place. Well, if you manage to stab someone and hit bone, keys, belt buckle, or whatever else that's harder than flesh, there's a very good chance your thumb might slip. If the thumb slips, you lose the support with your first finger. Lose that and you don't have a stab, especially with a metal handle with a barely adequate lower guard like this. That's bad because if you can't stab with a knife specifically designed to stab, you're in deep doo-doo.

Again, a drastic crook in the handle would have alleviated much of that problem, because when your grip slips, your hand will slip into more of a hammer grip to compensate. If you manage to stab at all, this is why. With the crook, you're already in a hammer-like grip while still allow a reasonable degree of indexing. That's good because the hammer grip is less likely to slip. I forgot to mention how important it is to maintain a saber-like grip to index. The blade is specifically designed to drill, and you'll need the index to pull it off.

And here's something else to think about: Slender metal handle + Saber grip = Easy disarm?

When it's all said and done, we still have to ask ourselves the following question, "Do we really want a knife that utilizes this specific type of strategy?" That's something we each have to decide for ourselves.

Maybe I'm being too critical. I like the Razorback just fine, and I love the sheath. It's just not my cup of tea.

[This message has been edited by SB (edited 06 June 1999).]
I asked about the Razorback on another forum a while back, specifically about the training video that supposedly shows the designer's philosophy. Glad to see more interest shown here.

I bought a Razorback 'cause I've been reading Ayoob's stuff for >20 years and have found him to be pretty on track with how the world works. The only other designs in the Masters of Defense series that I find attractive are Watson's navy utility knife and Gracielas' Hawk .. I'd like to have each of those in an auto one day .. but I got a gun safe and another Mad Dog to pay off first.

Anyway ... like many forumites here, my impressions of the Razorback as a defense knife are somewhat mixed.

#1) At least is it a straight, fixed blade. I LOVE that idea. Small, slender, easy to conceal and quick to deploy, it sends the right message right off the bat. My sample had an improperly molded sheath (the knife wouldn't go in or out without a bit of King Arthur's "Sword in the Stone" touch). A few minutes over the electric burner on my stove made things right. Upside down, rightside up, sides, the sheath holds the knife very secure and allows for that quick deployment I talked about. I just wish the sheath was an ambidextrous one; with kydex, all it would take is a bit of patience and a proper two position mold.

#2) There may be better designs than the "American tanto" for penetration/stabbing/piercing, but there are few that can penetrate/stab/pierce reliably into questionable or potentially damaging media and NOT BREAK or BEND. Not with traditional materials and tempering processes at least. Ever since I got my first Cold Steel tanto in the early 1980's I've been impressed with that feature. For a pure stabbing/thrusting blade, look at Gerber's old Guarian II; it'll do great against flesh, but I'm not sure about hitting bone, kevlar, belt buckles or whatever else your opponent might be wearing.

The Razorback's tip is fine with me.

#3) I don't care for the grind of the blade. I've an old Pacific Cutlery Bali-Song with a similar saber-ground blade (the tanto tip on that is more 45 degrees angle rather than 30 degrees for the Razorback) and it takes a bit of work to keep an razor edge on it. My Razorback wasn't very sharp and I fussed and worked with it for a half hour before I got something acceptable on it. I'm still not happy, but I think the main edge is NOT SUPPOSED to be the strength of this knife. (More later)

#4) In my original post I referred to the 'blood grooves' as being Ayoob's way of making sure enough DNA material was kept on the blade to "assist" the police in their investigation. This was said in jest, in case you're wondering. We all agreed that this was actually Ayoob's method for ensuring blade strength. Knowing how stainless ATS-34 really ISN'T, I can do without them.

#5) I haven't taken mine apart, but I understand the tang is only a 2/3rds tang. Fine. So what. A longer tang wouldn't change anything other than to make for a heavier knife. Next.

$6) The handle is a little slender, but given the parameters (and the fact that I prefer slender handles) it's fine. The grip is made to fit a variety of holds (saber, reverse, whatever ...)

As far as handle materials, I like both black aluminum and synthetics like G-10 and zytel .. on a small blade like the Razorback either is all right with me.

#7) The Ayood name and LFI etching? Well, if you're in a juridiction where carrying a knife for defense is taboo, then don't get one. Here in Kentucky we are licensed for concealed WEAPONS, which includes guns AND blades. Not a problem.

My biggest problems with the Razorback are twofold: I don't care for the obtuse angle of the main cutting edge, nor am I crazy about the "blood grooves." More the edge that anything else. The knife seems to be made for thrusting more than anything else and I'm from the old school of defense cuts made by blocking than closing in and holding someone down and stabbing them. Call me a sissy, but even that's as a last resort (after running away and emptying my GLock haven't worked).

I'm also in agreement with Smoke. It's gotta have SOME utilitarian features, which the Razorback is kinda shy on ... or I can't justify carrying it. I carry enough junk with me as it is.

However, I'm keeping my Razorback as a neat toy (along with my Al Mar Warrior, my Timberline SpecWar, my Blackjack Mamba and various other 'exotic' blades in my collection). Sometimes I might carry it, but I know it ain't perfect; I'll always have something else with me.